FOSSTON, MINN. – In a small town, it’s common for people to play several roles. The mayor might be the town dentist, a member of the park board and chief cook at the Lions Club’s pancake breakfasts. The manager at the hardware store might lead the volunteer fire department, prepare taxes and coach the high school girls’ volleyball team.
So maybe it’s not so unusual that Dan Kindall made a presentation to the Fosston City Council recently, and then, as reporter for the local newspaper, submitted a story on the presentation.
Then, as editor of The 13 Towns, the weekly paper, he gave himself a byline and put the story on the front page.
Kindall had three bylines on the front page of the Jan. 22 edition. The stories concerned the Fosston School District reaching a contract agreement with teachers, local businesses preparing for the annual “Frosty Days,” and City Council members hearing about a new Amish settlement in the area.
“Kindall opened the presentation by discussing the impact the settlement will make on the area,” Kindall reported. “He went on to say the Amish are a diverse community and wish to find potential business partnerships to market the products they hope to produce.”
And later in the story: “The discussion then turned on what ways Fosston could be a more Amish-friendly community. Kindall suggested that caution signs be posted on U.S. Hwy. 2 on the east and west end of town.”
‘You have to wear a lot of hats’
Kindall, 40, also serves on Fosston’s Star Committee, a group of business people who promote economic activity in the Polk County town of 1,575 people about 50 miles west of Bemidji.
“It ends up being a very fine line sometimes, but you have to wear a lot of hats,” he said. “That was an interesting story to write, with me taking part – a little tricky – but I don’t think I gave myself better press than the council.
“My integrity is very important to me. You need to report that you were there and took part, and I did. It was a little odd, but what do you do? I’m reporting on the city, but I’m also involved in what’s happening here.”
It’s not a unique situation in Minnesota, said Barbara Trebisovsky, assistant director of the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
“Throughout the state, there are newspaper people who might be the mayor or a member of the council,” she said. “It just happens. There aren’t always enough people to step forward to take on the responsibilities a city needs filled.”
An editor participating in a town meeting and then reporting the proceedings, quoting himself directly or indirectly, might be less common, she said.
Kindall said that he’s comfortable with his coverage, and nobody at the meeting (including Kindall) has complained.
The recent arrival of about 10 Amish farming families from Kentucky is potentially great news for the Fosston area, Kindall said, and he believes that the community should help them work through any difficulties they may face.
At the January meeting, representatives of the Amish settlement told Fosston City Council members that they hope to establish several small, organic dairy farms in the area, supplementing their farm income by arranging to make and sell furniture and other goods and services through established local businesses.
“We haven’t seen this type of small family farm in 50 years,” Kindall said. “We’re just trying to open some doors for them. The community is wanting to do things right with these people.”